Hornung, nicknamed the "Golden Boy," won the Heisman Trophy in 1956 as the year’s outstanding player in United States College football and is the only player from a losing team (his University of Notre Dame team finished 2-8 that year) ever to win the trophy. Highly versatile, Paul Hornung was a quarterback who could run, pass, block and tackle and is the person most football observers consider as the greatest all-around football player in the University of Notre Dame’s history. In the 1956 season, he led his team offensively in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff and punt returns and punting. He also played defense and led his team in passes broken up and was a team second in interceptions and tackles made.
In 1957, after graduating university with a degree in business, Hornung was drafted number one overall into the National Football League by the Green Bay Packers with whom he would go on to win four league championships including the first ever Super Bowl in 1967. As a pro, he was one of the most versatile players in the history of the game, playing the halfback position as well as being a field goal kicker for several seasons. Hornung led the league in scoring for three straight seasons from 1959, through 1961. During the 1960 season, in just 12-games, he set an all-time record by scoring 176 points, plus, he also threw two touchdown passes. In 1961 he set the record for the most points scored in a Championship game. Considered the the best short-yardage runner to ever play the game, twice he was voted the league’s most valuable player and during his career was chosen as an All-Pro twice and named to the Pro Bowl twice. He is one of only five players to have won both the Heisman Trophy and the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award.
Obliged to serve in the United States Military, Hornung was called up to active duty in the army during the 1961 season but was able to get weekend leave to play on Sundays. His coach, Vince Lombardi was a friend of the then President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and the president arranged an army furlough so Hornung could play in the NFL championship game against the New York Giants.
Idolized by fans, and wealthy from numerous commercial endorsements, Paul Hornung enjoyed his success and the good life that fame and money brought. On more than one occasion, he was fined by his team’s coach for staying out past curfew. He is famously quoted as having once said: Never get married in the morning - you never know who you might meet that night. However, his penchant for high-living would prove disastrous when, in 1963, a major scandal erupted and Paul Hornung and another of the league's top stars, Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, were suspended from football indefinitely for betting on games and associating with undesirable persons. Forthright in admitting to his mistake, Hornung's image went relatively untarnished, and in 1964 his suspension was re-evaluated by the League and Hornung returned to play for the Packers for another three seasons before injury problems forced him to retire at the end of the 1966 season.
Paul Hornung was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Following his retirement he entered the business world but remained involved with professional football as the producer and host of a nationally televised sports program.
The "Paul Hornung Award," is given out annually to the state of Kentucky’s top high school player.